In 1972, after a court battle, the State of Georgia won a lawsuit against the State of Tennessee that granted it the rights to the General locomotive. The General was taken to the Big Shanty Museum in Kennesaw, Georgia, located in the old Frey cotton gin, just yards from where it had been stolen 110 years earlier. The Big Shanty Museum, later called the Kennesaw Civil War Museum, showcased the General and the Civil War's Great Locomotive Chase with artifacts and a multimedia presentation.
In the mid-1990s, the City of Kennesaw acquired the Glover Locomotive Collection and planned to build a new, separate museum to house it. In 1998, the Kennesaw Museum Foundation was formed to identify other sources of funding, and the city decided to combine the Glover Locomotive Collection with the General. A new name was coined to better describe the Museum’s larger, more impressive collection. The Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History, one of Atlanta's premier tourism destinations, houses three permanent collections: Railroads: Lifelines of the Civil War; The Great Locomotive Chase; and Glover Machine Works: Casting a New South, plus space for revolving exhibits.
In 2000, the project was expanded once more to include an Archives & Library department, which includes 5,360 linear feet of archival space. The Archives & Library houses company records, presidents’ files, accounting and payroll records, engineering drawings, blueprints, glass plate negatives, photographs and correspondence from various American businesses representing the railroad industry in the Southeast after the Civil War.
In 2001, the Museum became a member of the prestigious Smithsonian Affiliations Program. The Museum staff feels strongly that it shares a profound appreciation of history and heritage with the Smithsonian Institute, which is what motivated the Museum to seek the affiliation. The Smithsonian Affiliations Program allows the Museum to host traveling Smithsonian exhibits, book Smithsonian historians for lectures and feature Smithsonian artifacts within its permanent collections. These privileges supplement the Museum offerings, bringing the excitement and marvel of the Smithsonian Institution to our neighborhood.
The newest addition to the Southern Museum is the Jolley Education Center, which includes many interactive displays to engage children and adults in Civil War, railroad and locomotive history. It is also the home of Georgia's Merci Boxcar, or the "Gratitude Train," which was a gift sent to the United States from France for providing aid to the war-torn country following World War II.